Seven years of researching, investigating and writing have paid off for NYU professor Dan Fagin, who was recently awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his latest book.
Fagin, journalism professor and director of the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program, is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for his latest book, “Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation.” “Toms River” discusses industrial chemical pollution and subsequent cases of cancer in Toms River, N.J.
Fagin first became interested in the topic when he was a reporter for Newsday, where he often wrote about cancer patterns.
“This is a topic that is very important and that people are very interested in but is difficult to explain within the confines of a conventional news article,” Fagin said. “So I had in my mind that this would be something worth writing about.”
Fagin found coming to NYU gave him the opportunity to pursue this kind of time-consuming investigative reporting.
“I am very grateful to have the opportunity here at NYU to have the time to be able to do this right,” Fagin said. “It’s an amazing opportunity that journalism professors have to practice our craft in a deep way, and I feel a sense of responsibility to take full advantage of that and to do good work.”
Fagin was at home when he found out he won the Pulitzer. His wife, a journalist at Reuters, saw the news and started shouting, “Dan, you won, you won.” Fagin said winning the prize is gratifying because with more people now picking up the book, more attention is brought to the cause.
“The point is that Toms River is a small part of a much bigger story, and I want people to see that for themselves,” Fagin said. “Thanks to the Pulitzer, many more people will be exposed to the story.”
“What is most important to me is that I wrote this book not because I thought ‘Toms River’ was unique but because I think it’s not unique,” Fagin said. “The only truly surprising thing about Toms River is that we found out about it.”
Fagin intends to focus on environmental health in his future projects.
“I’m sure whatever I do next will be related to environmental health, but there are many different ways I could go and I haven’t really decided yet.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 28 print edition. Sam Del Rowe is a staff writer. Email him at [email protected]